With the start of Ramadan just a few days away, a national Muslim organization has announced today a nationwide boycott of dates produced in Israeli settlements on the West Bank in the occupied Palestinian territories. The American Muslim for Palestine’s campaign, “This Ramadan Make a Date with Justice: Choose Occupation-Free Dates,” answers the 2005 call from Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel as means to peacefully pressure Israel to abide by international law and end its occupation of Palestine; allow Palestinians refugees the right to return to their homeland; and to secure equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Ramadan, which may start Friday, July 20, is a holy month for Muslims, during which they fast from sunrise to sunset. Most Muslims break their fast by eating dates and drinking water in the same way their prophet, Muhammad, did. However, many people are unaware of the prevalence of Israeli occupation dates in the United States, buy them and, therefore, unwittingly support Israeli’s illegal occupation.
While figures for how many dates are consumed during Ramadan are not known, Israeli dates exported to the U.S. in 2011 were valued at $51 million, according to the USDA. In fact, Israel produces more than half the world’s leading variety of dates, the Medjool date, according to a May 11, 2006, Jerusalem Post article. The majority of these dates are grown in Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea areas of the West Bank. In total, Israeli export companies make more than $260 million in date exports every year, according to data supplied by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.
Currently, Israeli company Hadiklaim markets most date exports. AMP’s boycott includes that company as well as the brands Jordan River, Jordan River Bio-Tops and King Solomon.
Several key issues are at play when talking about products from Israeli settlements. First, they’re illegal, according to numerous international laws, including UN Security Council Resolution 465 and the Fourth Geneva Convention. Settlements, their buffer zones prohibited to Palestinians, and Jewish-only roads have consumed nearly 50 percent of the West Bank, leaving Palestinians confined to isolated cantons with very little freedom of movement. Purchasing items produced in settlements supports the settlement industry and prolongs the suffering of Palestinians.
Israel has also taken control of most of the West Bank’s water sources, reserving them almost exclusively for settlers. Most of the Jordan Valley water supply is allocated to the 37 settlements there, whose economy is based on agriculture. Less than 10,000 settlers live in the area, yet they are allocated almost 33 percent of the water, while all Palestinians in the West Bank, some 2.5 million people, are allocated the remaining 67 percent, according to a report by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. This water has enabled Israeli settlers to develop intensive farming methods and to work the land year round, with most of the produce being exported. These exports, including dates, contribute significantly to the settlements’ economic viability.
Exploiting Palestinian Labor and Children
Palestinian workers in settlements face exploitation, discrimination and lack social welfare and job security guarantees. Despite a 2007 Israeli High Court ruling requiring that Israeli labor laws be applied equally to Israeli employers and their Palestinian West Bank workers, unequal implementation of labor laws persists, resulting in inferior labor standards for Palestinians, according to a 2008report by Kav LaOved called, “Palestinian workers in West Bank settlements after High Court of Justice ruling.”
Palestinian workers are paid less than their Israeli counterparts, in violation of Israeli law. In addition, Palestinian child laborers are also subject to exploitation in the settlements. In 2008, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics found that more than 7,000 children between 5 and 17 years of age were working in the Jordan Valley alone, according to an AMP report.
AMP’s boycott is a response to the Palestinian civil society 2005 call for boycott, divestment and sanctions. It comes on the heels of two other recent successful boycott and divestment efforts: Last month, pension fund giant TIAA CREF divested its Social Choice Fund of nearly $73 million in Caterpillar stock following the corporation’s removal from the MSCI list of socially responsible companies. MSCI cited Caterpillar’s involvement in the Israeli occupation as a factor in its removal. TIAA-CREF has been the target of the national “We Divest Campaign” led by a coalition including Jewish Voice for Peace, the American Friends Service Committee, Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation . Shortly thereafter, on July 5, the Presbyterian Church USA’s general assembly voted to boycott products produced in Israeli settlements, mentioning by name the very dates AMP is calling the Muslim community to boycott: Hadiklaim dates. The church also named Ahava beauty projects, the target of a long-standing international campaign spearheaded by another activist group, CodePink.
How you can help
While this campaign initially is targeted at the Muslim community, AMP is asking all people to boycott dates produced in Israeli settlements.
A Twitter campaign is set for today — Wednesday, July 18th at 11 a.m. Pacific Time / 1 p.m. Central time/ 2 p.m. Eastern Time/ 9 p.m. Palestine time. We will be tweeting about the boycott of occupation dates using the hashtag #JusticeDates.
Some sample Tweets include:
This Ramadan, make a date with justice: boycott Israeli occupation dates link to bit.ly #JusticeDates
Occupation Dates Are Not Halal. Boycott Israeli Occupation dates this Ramadan link to bit.ly #JusticeDates
This Ramadan, don’t break your fast with occupation dates link to bit.ly #JusticeDates
This campaign is endorsed by the national organizations United States Palestinian Community Network, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.